When my editor reached out to write about you, she reminded me that February 26 marks two years since your untimely death at the hands of George Zimmerman. To be certain Trayvon, I was initially pained at the coming of this assignment. Although some who read my musings would likely believe that I love talking about race and waving an accusing finger at racism. The truth is to the contrary, little brother. Matters of race are so near to my soul that putting these emotions into words is a most arduous transmogrification. With each word penned, so goes a little more hope.
As you likely know by now, looking down from up high, the individual accused of your death has since been acquitted of all charges relating to your death. Yes, Trayvon, it is with watery eyes that I must say your murder went unpunished by the laws of the land. Zimmerman’s defense team was successfully able to argue that he pursued you armed with a semi-automatic pistol because you were out of place and not because you were a young black man wearing a hoodie at night. Much to my chagrin, the jury bought it. The judge in the case instructed the jury that race was not to be taken into consideration during deliberation. She did say, however, that the inept prosecutors involved in the case could say you were profiled while completely ignoring the fact that the only reason you were profiled was because of race. With Zimmerman’s acquittal came yet another in a menagerie of legal cases in which the justice system chose to ignore or brush over the obvious. In this instance, the obvious is that you were racially profiled by Zimmerman and, because of that, were followed, confronted and eventually shot to death.
Peace of mind and the black man are often diametrically opposed to one another in the grander scheme of things. We must be cognizant of what everyone around us is possibly thinking at every moment and in every situation, no matter their race, class or country of origin. We must be mind-readers, novice sociologists and psychologists as well. Why? Because when we ignore the fact that we are America’s favorite boogeyman and act incredulously to that reality, we can easily end up dead or in prison. Still, society at large will readily paint us as paranoid and sensitive whenever we mention these things.
Yet, it is the 400 year old stereotype of the out of control black buck roaming the countryside and terrorizing good white folks that is the forerunner to the modern idea of the violent and aggressive young black man. When George Zimmerman followed you on that fateful evening two years ago, he became your judge, jury and executioner. Your only crime was being a black man who he feared. If it weren’t for that fear then there would have been no reason to brandish a firearm.
Society at large will likely point to national black-on-black murder rates as being indicative of why black males should be feared. But doing so is tantamount to a doctor pointing to a symptom as the cause of a particular ailment. Yes, there is no clearer an example of internalized racism in America than black-on-black genocide. The idea of the proliferation of violent black on black crime throughout all forms of American media is the reason for the counter point of view that is taken by both whites and blacks who cling to it as a valid reason to suspect every black male of being capable of the worst. This is the reason why the force used against someone who looks like you and I is often seen as justified from a legal and pragmatic perspective.
GZ’s acquittal is but one example of many. In November 2012, 47-year-old Michael Dunn fired 10 shots into a vehicle carrying 17-year-old Jordan Davis. The young man died at the scene in Jacksonville, Fla, which is only 120 miles from Sanford. Makes friends with him up there, Trayvon. His mother and your own have become one another’s support networks.
Like Zimmerman, Dunn showed no remorse. He left the scene, walked his dog, had a drink and enjoyed a night’s sleep before facing what he had done. His callousness and indifference towards taking a black life was chilling and psychopathic. Earlier this month, Dunn was convicted on three counts of second degree attempted murder and one count of firing a weapon into a vehicle, but the jury was hung on the charge of first degree murder. Dunn could be in prison for the rest of his life, but he, like your assailant, was not convicted of murdering you. It happened again, Trayvon. From a legal standpoint he got away with murder, just like George Zimmerman.
I wish I had better news Trayvon, but the country has become no less racist and polarized since your death. But what the loss of your life and that of Jordan Davis does is provide well-meaning individuals with the opportunity to talk about race honestly and openly. That, Trayvon, is a task I will embark upon in your name. Rest In Peace little brother. You are not fodder. You were a son, a brother, a friend, and if I have anything to do about it, you will not be forgotten